Consider the tech-filled, high stimulus world that we live in. Children are bombarded with high-intensity, rapid-pace stimuli on a daily basis. From targeted advertising to television and movies and the increasing access to handheld technology by younger and younger demographics, the rise in adolescent anxiety seems like a foregone conclusion. With history telling us that tech is not going anywhere, and studies showing that the number of children developing anxiety disorders continues to increase, parents must learn how to help their child cope with adolescent anxiety.
The Facts About Adolescent Anxiety
Some may be wondering what behaviors and emotional states in children qualify as anxiety. After all, we all have fears and worries, but anxiety goes beyond these normal emotions. According to Psychology Today, symptoms of anxiety are persistent. They include muscle tension, physical weakness, poor memory, sweaty hands, confusion, constant worry, shortness of breath, palpitations, upset stomach, and poor concentration. Children who report and/or exhibit these symptoms chronically may be suffering from adolescent anxiety.
By almost all accounts, instances of adolescent and teenage anxiety are on the rise. One study from JAMA Psychology found that the risk of having at least one psychiatric disorder by age 16
is much higher than many measures show. It also found that between 23% and 61% of children studied would experience continuity in their condition, meaning that anxiety was often persistent and arising for no apparent reason. Time also found that rates of depression in teens are startlingly high, and teen depression is commonly linked to adolescent anxiety. In the worst cases, this can result in self-harm and even suicide.
So, the problem is clearly not to be taken lightly. But what can parents and children do to combat the effects of adolescent anxiety once it’ s diagnosed?
Attacking the Problem
A study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine journal states that childhood and adolescence are the core stages in which anxiety disorders are typically developed. For this reason, parents must be proactive in spotting symptoms of anxiety in their child and addressing them as quickly as possible. If a child is abnormally solitary, is constantly irritated, reacts disproportionately to problems, and displays the physical signs of anxiety, action must be taken.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry outlines some steps for parents of children who have an anxiety disorder. Begin with talking to the child, giving them the opportunity to verbalize their fears and concerns, letting them know that such fears are a normal part of adolescence. Help them understand that overcoming these fears is possible, reminding them of instances when they did just that and were better for it.
If the problem persists, seek professional help in the form of a child psychiatrist. If the issues continue even after this, consider that underlying physical ailments such as diabetes may be causing the anxiety. Keeping open lines of dialogue and monitoring the child’s progress or lack thereof is critical, as some cases will even require temporary hospitalization, particularly if a child is displaying signs of self-harm.
For many children, a dog may be one way to reduce their sense of anxiety. Studies have shown that service dogs help to decrease anxiety in children. While a dog may not completely solve the problem, it’s a logical start toward easing the effects that anxiety has on a child’s psyche and life.
With science telling us that children and teenagers are becoming increasingly anxious and eventually depressed, the issue must be taken seriously. Awareness of the nature of adolescent anxiety, its symptoms, and the best ways to respond is a start. Facilitating a child’s road to recovery through communication and consultation with professionals is the next step. Each case of anxiety is a bit different, but these are universal steps to take if a child receives a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder.